Murders in St. Louis last year were concentrated in small pockets of the city, reports the Post-Dispatch. Data shows that 102 of the 159 who died were slain in just eight of the city's 28 wards. The paper profiles the Fourth Ward, in the heart of north St. Louis, which had 15 murders last year, second-highest in the city. It consists primarily of the Ville, once the center of the city's black middle class. Now, the typical household income there is in the low- to mid-$20,000s, and unemployment is high. Between the 2000 and 2010 censuses, the population dropped 26 percent.
Neighborhoods are pockmarked by vacant lots and crumbling houses. The local alderman, Sam Moore, said there are 1,242 vacant buildings in the area. Five schools sit empty. There are 1,700 vacant lots. While murders were up, reports of other violent crimes — assault, rape and robberies — were down 24 percent last year, and showed a 56 percent drop since peaking in 2009. It was the biggest drop of any ward. The contradiction is difficult to explain, though falling population and clearance of abandoned buildings play a role.